One of the surprises to come out of Ubisoft’s hands-on opportunities was The Division’s mobile spin-off, subtitled Resurgence. I’m admittedly not a huge proponent of playing intensive games on mobile, Marvel Snap is about as wild as I get. Coupled with the fact that The Division is a series I bounced off early days, coming at it after years of being ingrained in Destiny’s universe, I found the grounded setting uninspired and the loot, an important thing for a looter-shooter, to be a bit underwhelming.
As Resurgence ultimately boils down that experience into a “handheld” experience, I’m not sure it’s going to win over people who never liked the franchise, to begin with. One thing is for certain, the team has worked magic in getting The Division running on a phone with little loss to fidelity, and next-to-no sacrifice in terms of its core loop.
The game does have controller support for those put off by the grim prospect of mastering the controls on a phone, but for the purpose of the exercise, I dove into the full touch experience, warts and all.
I got to play on an iPhone 14 Pro, which is clearly a market-leading and new enough model that Resurgence didn’t really show signs of labouring on the tiny powerhouse. That said, how it supports older handsets might be another story entirely. In terms of form factor and how it feels in hand, I don’t think I’ll ever consider touch controls optimal. It’s cramped, but in terms of mapping and translation of the bigger experience, Resurgence is about as good as it’s going to get. It packs a lot into a tiny screen, including a robust heads-up and UI that omits no key features. As your left thumb is left to handle movement alone, your right controls both the camera and the shooting. Owners of fat thumbs like myself might find themselves constantly popping off a round or two as they go to move out, but that’s going to really vary person-to-person.
Health kits and grenades rest above where your right thumb will naturally sit, while prompts for weapon hot swaps, ultimate powers, and technical supports rest at the bottom of the screen. It all fits in nicely, but fitting it all in does have its caveats. Things like subtitles will literally cover the player-operator in the middle of the screen, which seems less than ideal.
Playing a brief op that involved flooding a water plant to mute the effects of a virus plaguing the area, we opted for normal difficulty which produced few issues.
Moving in and out of cover felt intuitive and the shooting felt targeted, the game really does feel great in hand. All of the things The Division is known for are still present—it has a live-service world, spongy enemies, and really spongy bosses. So if those things are a put-off, Resurgence won’t move the needle for you. Like most games designed with load-outs and co-op in mind, Resurgence was fun with a friend, and my friend, in this instance, was the lovely developer who carried me through the mission. I can see it being a bit of mindless fun while you flap gums with a friend, for sure.
It’s impossible to fault the presentation, either. Despite being on a 6.12-inch screen, it loses very little of the essence its mainline iteration puts onto larger screens. I’m floored by the small touches, like smoke and fire effects, that shouldn’t be possible on a handset, along with small interstitial cutscenes that give context to boss encounters, among other things. It all adds up to give Resurgence the sheen of a bigger budget title. Having run the demo with a good pair of headphones, I can also say the sound design in Resurgence thumps.
At the end of the day, it’s The Division you can take with you on the go. From a technical standpoint, it’s mighty impressive. And as someone with both a Steam Deck and Switch, who rarely plays on mobile, it doesn’t have a use case for me. But that’s me, if you’re a fan of The Division, being able to have it in your pocket and have it translate so well is a big deal.
Put simply, The Division Resurgence has no right to feel and look as good as it does.